GOP blocking progress on economy, Obama says

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WASHINGTON -- With a potential federal shutdown looming, President Barack Obama on Monday warned congressional Republicans they could trigger national "economic chaos" if they demand a delay of his health care law as the price for supporting continued spending for federal operations.

House Republican leaders were to meet today in hopes of finding a formula that would avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1 without alienating party conservatives who insist on votes to undercut the Affordable Care Act. Even more daunting is a mid- to late-October deadline for raising the nation's borrowing limit, which some Republicans also want to use as leverage against the Obama administration.

"Are some of these folks really so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they're willing to tank the entire economy just because they can't get their way on this issue?" Mr. Obama said in a speech at the White House. "Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points?"

The Republicans don't see it that way.

House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes the threat of a shutdown, said, "It's a shame that the president could not manage to rise above partisanship today." Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner said, "should be working in a bipartisan way to address America's spending problem, the way presidents of both parties have done before," and should delay implementation of the health care law.

While some conservatives supported by the Tea Party have been making shutdown threats, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Monday that was "a dumb idea."

Mr. Obama timed his remarks for the fifth anniversary of the bankruptcy of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers, a major early event in the near-meltdown of the U.S. financial system and a severe global recession. He used the occasion to draw attention to the still-recovering economy and to what he called a "safer" system now in place.

His remarks also came amid public skepticism over the state of the economy and his handling of it.

While unemployment has dropped to 7.3 percent from a high of 10 percent and the housing market has begun to recover, the share of long-term unemployed workers is double what it was before the recession, and a homebuilding revival has yet to take hold. A new analysis conducted for The Associated Press shows that the gap in employment rates between America's highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest level since officials began tracking the data a decade ago.

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